Have you ever bounced a check? I did several times when I was younger, but it wasn’t on purpose. I thought I had the money in my account. The problem was, I wasn’t keeping track of my other financial transactions. In other words, I was doing mental accounting, keeping tabs on everything in my head, instead of writing them down and balancing them out.

Of course, back then there were no immediate notifications via text or e-mail. So I received a letter five days later noting the problem. That meant by the time I got to the bank to try and resolve the issue, I was in a major financial hole.

This is the same way clients can go wrong when trying to get their lives right for retirement. That is, they mentally assume they have something banked to help them replace their work identify, fill their time, stay relevant and connected, as well as mentally and physically active. However, what they assume will be going on or taking place isn’t always the reality they will face. As a result, they are writing bad checks and putting themselves in a hole just as they start one of life’s most important transitions.

In other words, they can end up with a deficiency in their personal life that is very different from being a few bucks short in their bank account. Quite simply, you just can’t scrape together family, friends, good health or more time.

I have seen this happen countless times in both expected and unexpected ways. For example, take the hardworking father figure who is committed to his career and doesn’t have time for his family. Yes, they live in a great house, take a nice vacation once or twice a year, and the college funds are in place, but when he finally retires and plans to reconnect and get more deeply involved with his family, it’s not always received well.

Turns out, just as they were only a small part of his plan leading up to retirement, he isn’t part of their plan now. Whether it’s a lack of connection, busyness or distance, there’s a bounced check or deficiency in the plan that isn’t easy to clear up.

While research doesn’t pinpoint the reasons for retirees’ bouts of loneliness, research from the University of California, San Francisco shows that more than 40% of seniors regularly experience it. And those feelings of separation and disconnection may predict serious health problems and even death.

In other cases, clients enter retirement with grand visions of rekindling their passions for, say, woodworking, playing a musical instrument or writing a book. Many also plan to volunteer, work part time, transition into a second career or start a business. All great ideas, but without a specific plan or concrete steps, these dreams can succumb to the honeymoon phase of retirement and fizzle out.

It’s common for people to want to just relax and do nothing for the first few weeks of retirement. The problem is, we are creatures of habit, and once those habits settle in, they are hard to break. Time and time again, I hear from both husbands and wives that their spouses don’t do anything. They either watch TV all day or simply lounge around in their PJ’s. Contact with friends and physical activity diminish, and frustration sets in.

Once again, research reinforces this harsh reality. On the front end of retirement, things can appear positive and optimistic. In fact, 83% of pre-retirees said they expect to live their best life in retirement. Furthermore, 75% of retirees and 81% of pre-retirees said there are more opportunities now than 20 years ago to have a second career, start a business or work in the gig economy.

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